HARROGATE, Tenn. — Not dwelling on a banner year in 2013, the Lincoln Memorial baseball team brought a close to the fall season with the Cary Challenge, a five-day competition that set the Railsplitters’ sight on the ultimate goal of getting to Cary, N.C., and the NCAA Division II World Series.
Last season, the Railsplitters squeaked into the Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Championship, earning the five-seed after compiling a 12-15 league mark. From there, LMU defeated Wingate and Tusculum to step into the driver’s seat of the tournament, but a loss to Carson-Newman on the final day of the event put LMU’s back against the wall. The Railsplitters responded by topping Newberry, 12-10, just hours later to earn a rematch against the Eagles, and Wes Todd tossed a complete game in LMU’s 9-4 win over Carson-Newman in the title game.
That win clinched the first SAC title in program history and the first conference baseball championship of any form since 1959. The Railsplitters also made the first appearance in the NCAA tournament in program history.
In the wake of that historic season, the Railsplitters implemented the Cary Challenge in preparation for the 2014 campaign. The inaugural Cary Challenge was named in honor of the host city for the NCAA Division II Championship. The Cary Challenge was the used to signify the program’s ultimate goal, mark the culmination of the fall season and serve as a launching pad into the winter workouts.
LMU’s baseball roster was split into three teams, and those three squads squared off in a five-day, five-event challenge testing strength, stamina and intestinal fortitude. The first event was the Medley, a varied challenge that included running up stairs, carrying 30-pound sand bags down stairs, a 50-yard sprint, pulling a 100-pound sled more than 100 yards and another final 50-yard sprint. The second event was the Truck Tour which forced the individual teams to push a full size pickup truck around the LMU campus, a total of 1.3 miles. Events three and four were the Rock Wall Climb and Tug-o-War. The final event was the Pinnacle Run, as the three teams were faced with a 2.5 mile race to the top of the Pinnacle Overlook located in the Cumberland Gap National Park.
At the completion of that grueling five-day challenge, Team Woody came away as the winners. That team was comprised of team captain Nolan Woody, Ryan Burlison, Isaac Woody, Jacob West, Jordan Raines, Lee Agosto, Wes Todd and Austin Dayton. Burlison was the individual points champion.
“The Cary Challenge was a fantastic way to end our fall,” said LMU baseball coach Jeff Sziksai. “The whole point of the event is to put an emphasis on our program’s ultimate goal, which is the World Series located in Cary, N.C. In doing so, the events are designed to reinforce the ideals our program is built on: Hard Work, Competing, and Never Giving Up. Our guys accepted the challenge and they did a great job with it.”
With the fall semester officially in the books, the Railsplitters will briefly break for the holidays. The baseball boys return to campus in January and begin the final preparation for the 2014 campaign, which kicks off with game one of a three-game set against the USC Aiken Pacers in South Carolina on Feb. 1.